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Pumpkin beer, orange vodka give taste of autumn

Emma Janzen, Liquid

Staff Writer
Austin 360

Fall is finally here, which means it's time to bust out libations with the warm, comforting flavors of the season and celebrate the cool weather.

Saint Arnold Brewing released its first seasonal brew in 13 years this month. The Imperial Pumpkin Stout Ale, known as the Pumpkinator, was originally released in 2009 as part of the Divine Reserve series (dubbed Divine Reserve No. 9). The limited release this month was met with much enthusiasm from local craft beer lovers, followed with a rapid treasure hunt to find a bottle. You'll be lucky to find any remaining bottles of the brew today.

On the heels of the Pumpkinator release, the brewery released Santo, a black Kölsch that will be available year-round. The brew was originally scheduled to debut in September , but was delayed because of inconsistencies in the first batch. The brewers wanted to perfect the recipe, so they modified the mash temperature and replaced the original wheat malt with a Munich-style malt. The final beer is light-bodied and floral, but retains a distinctive dark malt flavor that is true to the Kölsch style. Santo will be available in 12-ounce bottles and six-packs throughout Central Texas.

Dripping Springs goes orange

October also marks the release of Dripping Springs Vodka's new orange-flavored vodka.

The addition makes 2011 a big year for the distillery, which now houses production for Roxor, the first Texas gin that debuted earlier this summer.

Master Distiller Gary Kelleher says that a flavored vodka wasn't something he originally considered as the next step for Dripping Springs. "We have gotten so much interest over the years about producing a flavored vodka, so it's been considered for a long time. But honestly, I was never interested in going in the direction of the flavor of the week. Even the better flavored vodkas out there are all about artificial flavors and attitudes. I had no interest in doing that."

Kelleher decided that if he were going to produce a flavored vodka, it would be on his own terms. Instead of using artificial flavors, the distillery began experimenting with Rio Grande Valley oranges, and developed a recipe that he says is different from anything else on the market.

"What we have done is come up with something 100 percent natural and 100 percent Texas, and we are excited to see what our fans will think about it," he said.

The process used to make the new vodka is similar to the way the distillery produces the Roxor gin. Kelleher explained: "We use the zest from the Rio Grande Valley oranges and infuse that into the vodka. This produces, through a steeping process, something that is like a tea. We then distill that liquid, so we end up with a product that has the essence of that orange flavor, but at the same time has the clarity and cleanness that goes with vodka."

Homebrewer wins contest

For the past 15 years, Samuel Adams has conducted the annual LongShot American Homebrew Contest. Homebrewers enter their specialty beers into the competition, and Jim Koch of Sam Adams chooses the top three entries to be featured in a nationally distributed variety six-pack.

Round Rock's Corey Martin, an electronics technician and homebrewer for the past 17 years, is one of three winners of this year's contest, earning his winning Munich Dunkel, A Dark Night in Munich, two spots in the LongShot Variety six-pack that will hit shelves in February 2012.

Read more about Martin's Munich Dunkel, and the story behind its creation in the Q&A on austin360.com/liquid.

Fall cocktails

To kick off what (we can only hope) will be the beginning of cooler weather here in Central Texas, I've acquired some seasonal cocktails from the mind of Jason Stevens of the East Side Show Room and Tigress Pub. Most of these drinks feature Stevens' favorite fall ingredient, grade B maple syrup. They also incorporate other earthy seasonal flavors like walnut, allspice, and even our local (512) Pecan Porter, in truly inventive combinations like the 512 Alexander below.

Stevens is one of the most dedicated local cocktail inventors in Austin. His attention to detail and flavor pairing are exceptional, and his cocktails never fail to please my palate. The cocktails below will be available as specials when Jason is behind the stick at both the East Side Show Room and the Tigress, and are the perfect way to celebrate the flavors of fall.

Black Branch

The Black Branch is a rounded, boozy cocktail with grain, nut, and spice soothed by maple and orange. It's New England autumn in a glass."

1 3/4 oz. Rittenhouse Rye whiskey

3/4 oz. Nux Alpine walnut liqueur

1 bar spoon grade B maple syrup (Go high quality here. It's about the flavor, not the sweetness.)

1 healthy dash of triple spice bitters, made with 1 part Angostura bitters, 1 part St. Elizabeth's Allspice dram and 3/4 part Peychaud's bitters

Build in a mixing glass, starting with the maple syrup. Add bitters and spirits, fill glass with ice and stir for about 10 seconds. Strain into an old fashioned glass filled with ice. Garnish with a small twist of orange (optional).

Sicilian Orchard Flip

"The Sicilian Orchard Flip has a full and rich body, with herbaceous notes of smoked dark chocolate augmented by autumn apple and winter spice. This cocktail is very comfortable on its own or served as an after-dinner nip."

2 oz. Averna amaro

1/2 oz. Laird's apple brandy

1 healthy bar spoon Del Maguey Chichicapa mezcal

1 bar spoon grade B maple syrup (high quality)

1 whole medium-size farm-fresh egg (yolk and white)

1 very small (10-12 grains) pinch of salt

Nutmeg

Combine all ingredients, except nutmeg, in a shaker. Shake hard without ice for 20-30 seconds till blended, add ice and shake for 20 more seconds or till the cocktail turns creamy. Double strain into a coupe glass, garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.

512 Alexander

"The 512 Alexander is local riff on a classic dessert cocktail, with the 512 liqueur adding less sweetness and more depth than the classic creme de cacao. The rich malt, chocolate, pecan and spice flavors add an autumnal note to the cocktail."

For 512 Pecan Porter liqueur:

12 oz. 512 Pecan Porter

8 oz. cane sugar

2 oz. grade B maple syrup

8 oz. vodka (40 proof)

1 large handful freshly roasted pecans (or skillet-toasted pecans)

1 small stick (1 inch) cinnamon

Place porter in a glass and stir several times over the course of an hour to release carbon dioxide. Add pecans and cinnamon stick to porter, place all in the fridge over night to release the rest of the CO2. The next day, place the mixture in a pot over high heat. Add the maple syrup, then slowly add the sugar, constantly stirring until sugar is dissolved. As beer heats, skim off head. Remove from heat, skim final head off, allow to cool. Add vodka and syrup in a bottle. Shake well. Allow to sit for a day before use. Keep refrigerated. Lasts for a month or longer.

For cocktail:

1 oz. cognac

1 oz. 512 Pecan Porter liqueur

1 oz. half-and-half or fresh cream

Combine all in a shaker, add ice and shake till cold and combined. Double strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish with grated roast pecan.

Hopped Toad

"In this cocktail, Chartreuse and IPA combine beautifully to enhance the winter flavors of hops, pine and spice."

3/4 oz. London dry gin

1/2 oz. green Chartreuse

1/2 oz. lemon juice

A few drops Angostura bitters

1 bar spoon honey syrup

6-8 oz. of your favorite IPA (I use 512 IPA)

Combine first five ingredients in a shaker, add ice, and shake. Double strain into a Collins glass, add ice or not, and top with the IPA.